Tag Archives: transportation

Only Child lessens the travel load

Only Child loves train travel although engines aren't steam anymor

Only Child loves train travel although engines aren’t steam anymore

As I prepare for my annual holiday to visit my cousins in southwestern Ontario, I’m trying to lessen my luggage even more than other years. VIA Rail’s new rules of two carry-on bags plus personal (a purse) have partially inspired me. When growing up and riding the rails with Dad and Mom, we each had one suitcase (I had the small one in the two-piece set and Dad had his duffel bag). I’m not going to get it down to one suitcase, if you count laptop, Kobo, camera and even house-slippers in the laptop case as one bag and my clothes in bag number two.

Things like an umbrella and my small insulated lunch bag will be the challenge. Because of travelling time and being on the train at meal time – but meals not served – I bring a lunch. The umbrella? Well, based on the unsettled weather we are getting in this world, even with cousins’ cars, an umbrella is a necessity.

Lessening my travel load has got me thinking about its health effects. Besides the obvious physical – less to carry, less risk of sprains and backaches, there is also the psychological. How many of you have found when you clear out your office or even a cupboard, you get such a feeling of relief as if a big weight has disappeared completely? Well for a short time, until you open another cupboard or enter another room.

So my packing list will be much smaller this year. I do not want to have to push down the packed clothes to be able to close the zipper. I do not want my expandable canvass bag (my version of Dad’s duffel bag) to expand so far out it almost dwarfs my short frame and pulls on my shoulder. In that stage it is also difficult to cart around, especially when stepping up and down those precarious narrow steps to enter and exit the train. With two packed to their “gills” bags and a purse (plus dangling umbrella and lunch bag) it is difficult to fit the width of those steps. I feel like an overweight drunk and all I’ve been drinking is water and my build is slight.

I’m even bearing tiny weight-free gifts for my cousins – seven copies of the CD for the band my son plays guitar and lap steel guitar in (Beams, for those who are interested www.banjobeams.com – shameful plug).

So hopefully when I get on the train, I will be able to lift the canvass suitcase up into the overhead storage and get it down without asking for help. The laptop bag? Kept under the seat ahead just in front of my feet. I usually don’t plug into the wireless on the train but I do want to read from my Kobo or the mystery magazine I bring along.

Now, I just have to keep any purchases to small and low weight. I tend to start my Christmas shopping when my cousins and I do the touristy thing in Grimsby, Stratford, etc.

How do you travel light? I already do the roll-your-clothes-up-to-pack option.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Holidays, Mom and Dad, Only child, Railways, Sharon A. Crawford, Train travel

Only Child on passenger railway security

350x247xtrain1.jpg.pagespeed.ic.NleuDB37gEI’m a railway brat. My late Dad was a timekeeper for one of the Canadian railways so Mom and I got free passes to travel in Canada and the United States. I begin the chapter “Riding the Rails with Dad” in my memoir…

If you’re going to travel on the train with Albert Langevin, be prepared to get up early and arrive at the station long before the steam engine is fired up, long before the conductor and trainman arrive, and long before anyone else stands in line at Platform 9 for Guelph, Ontario. My Dad has to be first in line at Toronto’s Union Station. His “typical [railway company name]” style dictated our family schedule during the late 1950s and early 1960s when we travelled by train to my Grandpa’s and my godmother’s farms.(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2013 Sharon A. Crawford)

That was then when train travel was more freewheeling and you could really talk about the romance of the rails. Until around 1960 there were still a few steam engines pulling trains, and up to the mid-1960s passenger trains actually ran through rural Ontario. Now, the railway company my dad worked for no longer has passenger service. In 1977, the federal government created VIA Rail for passenger service only. I’ve travelled by VIA and up to now some of the romance of riding the rails is still there.

However, it looks like it is going to change and be more like getting on a plane with security. All because of the foiled terrorist plot to derail a VIA Rail train in the Greater Toronto Area recently. Apparently VIA Rail already is doing some extra security – random searches and X-rays of baggage, sniffer dogs at stations and observing people in stations for any suspicious behaviour, plus increased training for their security staff. (See story at http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2013/08/04/via_rail_considers_new_security_checks_for_passengers_in_response_to_alleged_terror_plot.html). At this point I don’t have problems with this setup. So far my biggest problem when travelling by train is to limit my carry-on baggage to their requirements (two bags plus one personal – for example, a purse). However, increasing it to checking everyone against a database and everyone having ID – well, good in principle. But with a common name (Sharon Crawford) that could present problems. So could the ID because I don’t have a passport (I can’t afford one and don’t travel where I need one) and as I don’t drive I don’t have a driver’s licence. I’m hoping I won’t have to get a passport to board a train that is travelling only in Canada. I just might have to get the $35 Ontario personal ID (for non-drivers) which has to be renewed every five years (and probably more money forked over at the time – unlike the provincial health insurance card ID which needs renewing every five years but is free. It also has your photo and birthdate on it – but that one is not usually accepted for security checks). If ID becomes mandatory, there better be a choice of acceptable ID.

And will the one line my Dad rushed to Union Station to get in, now turn into two or three for security purposes and permission to board the train? The big stations in the big cities like Montreal and Toronto can accommodate all this but what about smaller stations such as in Stratford and Kitchener, Ontario, which still have the original small station?

Where do they think we will line up for ID etc. checks? In the parking lot?

Of course if the service cuts VIA Rail did last fall continue, there may be little or no operating train stations except in the big cities. Also these new security measures require more funds. It will be interesting to see what the Canadian Federal Government will do here. It has decreased funds to VIA but does spend on national security.

It is really too bad that travel has turned into a security hassle and time-consuming issue. All becomes of some baddie terrorists. At least VIA Rail is not considering the invasive naked body X-Rays and other than number, the limitation on carry-on (liquids and the like) and my ex-husband’s favourite complaint – shoe removal.

At any rate my dad must be rolling over in his grave. And I don’t think his favourite phrase about the railway company – “typical (railway company name)” would even apply here.

As I’ve said in previous posts – it’s a terrible world we live in no matter where we live.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Canadian National Railway, Mom and Dad, Only child memoir, Railways, Steam engines, Train travel

Only Child rides the crowded streetcar rails

Toronto streetcar circa 1980s like the one Only Child rode to the CNE

It happened again – a “train” I was riding stalled. This time it was the streetcar to the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto.  First it was a long wait for any streetcar to show up at the Bathurst Station. Extra streetcars were supposed to be running for this final weekend of the CNE but I guess they were invisible or maybe they were up in the air with the airplanes in the air show.

I don’t remember it being this bad when I was a kid travelling with my Mom on the streetcars (yes, we had to take two streetcars then) to and from the Ex. Sure we lined up to get on a streetcar to come home, but it was an adventure and mom always snagged a seat with me sitting on her lap and falling asleep.

Not this past Sunday’s ride.

When I surfaced onto the streetcar/bus platform from the subway below, I gasped. A long double-line up wound its way from the other end of the platform (where you board the streetcar) to way-way back and around the other side of the station platform. Ms Goody-two Shoes here went to the end of the line and waited and waited for a streetcar to show.

Fifteen minutes later (for me –others could have been waiting up to an additional 15 minutes) one double streetcar, followed by another arrived. Those at the front of the line-up got on the first streetcar. When I noticed a secondary line-up fanning out from the main one near the front and no third streetcar was in sight. I kicked off my Goody-two shoes and darted up to the end of the second line. I got on but had to stand almost all the way. When we arrived about one-sixth of the way we stopped for another 15 minutes at an intersection. The traffic lights were working and traffic was moving both ways except for Streetcar No. one ahead of us. To keep our sanity some of us were making sarcastic comments about the delay. These old streetcars (circa 1980s) may look magnificent but they are hotter than Mr. Devil’s house.

Punishment for moving up to the shorter line? Not exactly. An older woman (older than I) offered me her seat a few stops before the end of the line. Under normal circumstances I would refuse, but I do have feet problems. When I arrived at the CNE entrance to meet my friend (who came in by air-conditioned Go Train with no delays) I found she had purchased our CNE entrance tickets and wouldn’t take any money from me for it.

And here’s the kicker – late Sunday night when I rode the streetcar rails home (service normal and fast) the lady who sat beside me had been on the first streetcar that stopped ahead of mine going to the CNE. She said there was something wrong with that streetcar.

More fodder for my complaint, which I sent online the next day. Can’t help wondering if there is some serendipity or compensation working here?

Not that I want to travel in hell temperatures to receive compensation. It can get hot enough inside my home some days when the temperature and humidity go up too far – now that the air-conditioner doesn’t work properly anymore since I returned from holidays.

I suppose that’s my “reward” for taking time off from work for a vacation.

What says you? What’s the public transportation like where you live? Especially if you don’t drive.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Mom and Dad, Mother and Child, Only child, Public Transportation, Sharon A. Crawford, Toronto public transit

Only Child rides the rails

Only Child with her parents at her grandfather’s farm – one of the destinations of now obsolete train routes.

I felt like I was riding history when I travelled during my holidays the past week. Especially last night when returning and I wondered if I was going to make it home or become part of this history.

Like my father before me I ride the rails when on holidays. Not the same railway that my dad worked for and he, Mom and I travelled on for our holidays. Dad worked for the CN when it ran passenger trains. Some years after he died CN quit the passenger service to focus on freight. VIA Rail was created and it started a passenger service.

Now VIA plans to cut service on a few lines within its busiest corridor between Windsor, Ontario and Montreal, Quebec, as well as cut back on the number of times per week the Maritime line runs. One of my cousins commented that we’ll all have to travel by car. Is this VIA decision a good one when we are living in pollution and too many vehicles clog up highways (space and time, too. Think road rage).

So while on vacation visiting my many cousins in southern and southerwestern Ontario, I rode the last of some of the service being ditched. Going to Grimsby from Toronto it was the evening Toronto to Niagara Falls, Ontario run. Come October it will be gone and there will only be the early morning run from Toronto to Niagara Falls and vice versa in the evening.

Coming home last night on the last of the Sarnia to Toronto run at that time, I thought the service was being cut early. I got on the train at Kitchener and the first hour and a half was a great ride which I was enjoying. Then we just pulled out of Brampton and suddenly the main lights went out; the train stopped and the emergency ceiling lights went on.

Panic – at least for me, inside. I hate to be stranded. The VIA attendant did make an announcement that the power had gone off and that she’d let us know what was happening when she knew.

We passengers were left wondering what was going on, when 15 minutes later the regular lights went on. A few people yayed. Not me. We still weren’t moving and from what I could see out the window (not much as it was dark) showed cars on a street much lower than where the train stopped. Were we on a bridge?

After some time we received another announcement along the lines of they were trying to get the train started and if not, they would have cabs available soon to drive us to Union Station. Right. How would we get to the cabs? Walk along the embankment or the bridge more likely with little space and then where and how would we get down to street level? I kept thinking “I want to go home” – when I wasn’t darting to the seat across the aisle to try and see out that window. Even darker over that way.

Finally after 45 minutes of doing the stall, the train started. No one yayed this time. I couldn’t even go back to reading my Alfred Hitchcock Mystery magazine because I figured if I did, we would stop again.

Was this occurrence some foreshadowing of what is to come in October? Will I ride the rails again? Sure…on the lines still running.

But I know two things. My Dad is probably rolling over in his grave. He was always critical of CN service. If he were still alive he would be saying a variation of his “Typical (add railway here).

I think I would agree with him. Especially as 24 to 30 of us got off at the little flag station of Grimsby, Ontario on a Monday evening last week. Seems like VIA is cutting off its nose to spite its face. They are of course crying “government cuts.” The buck always stops at the consumer.

What says you about services such as train and bus being cut? (And yes, the bus service between Kitchener and Stratford has already been dumped).

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child

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Filed under Canadian National Railway, Family, Holidays, Mom and Dad, Only child, Public Transportation, Railways, Sharon A. Crawford, Train travel, VIA Rail

Only Child says road construction sign of life’s discord

Only Child’s front garden – headed for some destruction?

Last weekend I did a lot of walking in downtown Toronto and was appalled at all the road construction. Supposedly it is to improve Toronto’s streets and sites. But as I slogged through the heat along Front Street West and down York Street I couldn’t help wonder if underneath it all there is a more serious sign. If you throw in the extreme weather conditions worldwide – more severe thunderstorms with flooding, tornadoes, forest fires, and the worst drought since the Depression in the mid-1930s, you have to wonder. No, folks, I’m not talking the end of the world, although some people believe that will happen later this year. I mean the extensive invasive construction and extreme weathers conditions  just might be signs of the clutter, overwhelm, and disharmony in people’s lives throughout the world.

It didn’t used to be so much construction at once, although I remember as a five-year old, poking my head out the front door and seeing the whole street dug up for pipe replacement.

Now, Union Station – Toronto’s railway hub – is going through a big renovation. From the diagrams displayed inside the station’s big hall, the future looks great. But the process is taking a long time and producing a spill-out of more construction nightmares. The actual entries to Union Station and maneuvering around inside appear tolerable. Front Street outside is something else as the islands of gardens in the middle of the street were removed last year and this summer more of Front Street is one big long hole while sewers, etc. get updated. In June, the construction and the extreme weather created a flood inside Union Station and the subway platform below.

This weekend, yet another street where streetcars run, entered the construction act – to upgrade the tracks and prepare the area for a partial pedestrian walkway for Toronto’s Harbourfront. These streetcars (as well as those on Spadina Avenue) use a dedicated track line. The buses don’t. So, we have people, cars and buses (when they come) jamming streets and sidewalks. I gave up on waiting for the bus transfer from the subway (up the stairs, around the corner and down the street) for the walk to Harbourfront. Along with many others, I trudged through heat over to York Street and then some shade under the Gardner Expressway (which has had chunks of cement falling down in various places) and finally to Harbourfront. I was trying to make it in time for the classical music concert in the Harbourfront Music Garden. So I walked in the heat and humidity over to the west end of Harbourfront. As I arrived (late) and started through the gardens I could hear the “music.”

Somebody was insulting an accordion, hitting random chords of discord. I decided to skip the concert and wandered through the gardens. Here, beauty appeared and I found areas of the garden I hadn’t known existed. Truly this is an oasis of calm (except for the occasional sound from the concert popping through). When I walked back to Harbourfront Centre proper as I passed by the main outdoor concert stage, my ears were hit with more discord in sound. Another sign of the discord everyone seems to be experiencing in their lives?

And if I think sitting out in my garden will help, I have to think again – at least for the front garden. In my walk along the downtown streets Sunday and in my walks in nearby neighbourhoods the past month, I’ve seen the big gas pipe movement – replacement of old pipes for presumably newer and better ones. And if they have to, they go on your property and dig, although for the lucky ones, it stays on the sidewalk, roads, and maybe the driveway.

Not for me. I have gas lines under part of my front garden (once a front lawn). Why would gas lines (except the one connecting to the house service at the gas metre) be under a lawn? Who was at fault – the house builder/developer or the gas company back in the day when the area was developed? Somebody screwed up. And I’m terrified they will be coming to get my front garden – if not this year, then next. I’m having nightmares and daymares.

I need to find out more and make a plan.

Does anyone else find the extremes in weather, and such occurrences as too much radical construction, etc. a sign that our lives are really out of whack and we (I use the royal “we” here) need to make some changes before it is too late?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Clutter, Extreme Weather, Garden Destruction, Home and Garden, Music, Only child, Road Construction, Sharon A. Crawford, Sign of the Times, Union Station Toronto, Walking